The Value of Setting Workplace Priorities

While most people would agree that it makes sense to set and implement priorities in the workplace, recent research¹ provides evidence of the impact these practices have. Specifically, researchers showed that when supervisors or managers define organizational goals and priorities clearly, “translating” them into work unit level priorities, conscientious employees perform at higher levels than they do when such priorities and goals are not defined and communicated clearly.

Conscientious workers are those who know how to accomplish their work tasks effectively, and act accordingly. They tend to be thorough in doing their work, responsible, efficient, organized, and reliable. They are likely to be motivated to exert effort and persist in attempting to meet challenges and achieve goals. As a result, when these employees have a clear picture of organizational priorities, their performance increases compared to situations in which there is no clear picture.

The same study found that first-line supervisors and managers influence the extent to which conscientious employees perform at a higher level. That is, leaders who consistently discussed organizational goals and priorities, defined roles and responsibilities, and linked employees’ work to those outcomes created an environment in which the conscientious workers’ tendencies toward achievement were triggered.

Here are five things supervisors and managers can do to provide an environment that motivates conscientious workers to perform at high levels:

  1. Paint a clear picture of the organization’s vision.
  2. Identify clearly the organization’s goals and priorities.
  3. “Translate” those goals and priorities into work unit priorities.
  4. Link individuals’ roles, responsibilities, and tasks to both work unit and to organizational priorities.
  5. Show employees how their efforts contribute to organizational outcomes.

¹ Colbert, A.E. & Witt, L.A. (2009). The role of goal-focused leadership in enabling the expression of conscientiousness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94 (3), 790-796

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. Pat can show you how to apply relevant research findings in practical ways to create immediate results in your organization. Contact us today to see how we can help you make a difference!

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